The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced on Tuesday, in a unanimous and long-awaited decision in the forbidden financing issue, that the PTI received funds from prohibited sources.
The three-member bench of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has pronounced its judgement on the PTI’s prohibited fundraising matter, formerly known as the foreign funding case, after nearly eight years of deliberation.
Imran Khan, who was ousted from government in April by a parliamentary vote of no confidence, has pushed for a political return in recent weeks, hence elevating the relevance of the ECP probe. Akbar S. Babar, a former member of the PTI party, launched the carefully watched lawsuit in 2014, alleging that the PTI illegally collected foreign cash from individuals or organisations to finance election campaigns.
The panel argues in a 68-page judgement that the Imran Khan-led PTI did indeed accept funds from foreign firms and people, which it concealed. For the time being, the ECP has given the party a show-cause notice to explain why the illicit cash should not be seized.
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“The commission is satisfied that the contributions and donations have been received by the respondent party through prohibited sources,” the ECP declared in its verdict.
Important points of ECP verdict
- The ECP determines that PTI got financing from unlawful sources
- 34 foreign nationals and 351 foreign-based firms funded the party.
- PTI assumed responsibility for eight accounts, concealed thirteen others, and omitted three.
- A show-cause notice has been issued to PTI to explain why its funds should not be seized.
- Between 2008-13 the form-1 submitted by Imran Khan was determined to be incorrect.
Every political party must account for the source of its money in conformity with the law, under Article 17(3) of the constitution. It was up to the federal government now to determine whether the PTI was working in a way detrimental to Pakistan’s sovereignty or territorial integrity. If the government were to make such a pronouncement, it would be compelled to send the subject to the Supreme Court within fifteen days, whose ruling would be definitive.
If the PTI fails to demonstrate in answer to the show-cause notice that it acquired all of its funds from lawful sources, the Supreme Court has the power to ban the party. Imran Khan’s disqualification from holding public office based on the electoral commission’s decision appears improbable, though.
Has PTI survived the danger zone?
The PTI has survived the perilous phase since this is not a case involving foreign fundraising; rather, the order establishes that the issue involves illegal funding.
The dangerous part in the overall verdict is the inaccurate affidavit produced by Imran Khan, for which some believe that article 62(1)(f) proceedings can be launched against him in light of the Supreme Court decisions in Hanif Abbasi’s case.
In its ruling, the three-judge panel determined that proceedings under 62(1)(f) require a clear perspective for the court, which is presently available.
However, there is a snag. The courts are divided regarding whether the ECP is a court or not, and numerous rulings have been issued as a result.
According to the legal fraternity, on the basis of the electoral commission’s finding, it was impossible to ban the PTI as a party and disqualify Khan, but the ruling coalition could still begin a political assault against Khan and his party comrades.
The Supreme Court already ruled in Hanif Abbasi vs Imran Khan case that there is a difference between operating as a foreign funded political party and receiving prohibited funds; and the penalty for illegal funding can only extend upto confiscation and nothing more.
So, in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling, the electoral commission may confiscate the illegal funds and inflict further penalties, but nothing further is permissible.
A day before the verdict, Khan urged PTI members and supporters to demonstrate in front of the ECP building on August 4 to demand the CEC’s resignation while addressing the party’s national council meeting in the federal capital on Monday.
Whatever the legal repercussions may be, Pakistanis are up for an exciting political showdown starting from today.